Overdrive Racing is sending a powerful fleet of six Toyota Hiluxes to this weekend’s ORLEN Baja Poland, round nine of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies. Based at Szczecin and taking place on September 1-3, the three-day event attracts one of the largest entries in the cross-country calendar and 134 cars, bikes, quads and trucks will take part on this occasion.
Overdrive Racing has the most impressive team in the entire field with the Dutch trio of Bernhard Ten Brinke, Erik Van Loon and Peter van Merksteijn joining Dane Jes Munk, the host nation’s Aron Domzala and defending FIA World Cup champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in the line-up.
Qatar’s Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel arrive in Sczcecin directly from competing in the Rally of Lebanon and Al-Attiyah currently has a 72-point lead in the drivers’ standings. Victory in Poland – to follow five previous wins this season in Dubai, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Spain and Hungary – would give Al-Attiyah at least an advantage of 81 points to take to the final two rounds of the series in Morocco and Portugal in October. Al-Attiyah claimed his first victory in Poland last season.
“This is an important rally for me and the whole team and the outcome could put us in a very strong position to retain the FIA World Cup title,” said Al-Attiyah. “It is not an easy rally and there is strong competition, particularly from the local drivers in Poland.”
Poland’s Aron Domzala holds fifth in the championship standings after finishing in a similar position in Hungary earlier this month and claiming victory in Russia in February. The talented young driver again teams up with Szymon Gospodarczyk after working alongside Maciej Marton on the last few rallies in a second Toyota.
The Dutch trio of Ten Brinke, Van Loon and Van Mersteijn have impressive levels of experience in cross-country rallying and have worked with Overdrive Racing in the past. Van Loon and navigator Wouter Rosegaar finished 14th overall in the Dakar Rally back in January with a Toyota and sixth in April’s Qatar Cross-Country Rally.
Ten Brinke and Belgian navigator Tom Colsoul finished a fine seventh in the Dakar with Overdrive Racing in 2015, although the Dutchman teams up with the experienced Belgian WRC navigator Stéphane Prevot on this occasion.
Van Merksteijn’s return to topflight action with Overdrive Racing sees him team up with the former French Dakar Rally-winning co-driver Pascal Maimon, who worked with the Belgium-based team at the recent Silk Way Rally.
Munk teams up with Poland’s Rafal Marton in the sixth team entry with additional support from Bewa and M-For Sport.
Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin said: “It has been very busy to get the cars ready for this important round of the championship in Poland. It’s a demanding event and one where we have a strong entry and a large team to coordinate. It has been a busy few weeks for everyone with the Silk Way Rally and Spain in July followed by Hungary and Poland in August.”
The seven timed stages are centred around the Dobra and Lubieszyn areas and the military firing range at nearby Drawsko Pomorskie. The action gets underway with the ceremonial start on the scenic Lasztownia island and a timed Prologue stage of 7.08km on Friday evening from 18.00hrs.
There will then two selective sections of around 215.90km apiece on Saturday (September 2) at the firing range from 08.15hrs and 13.45hrs, respectively.
The remaining four timed sections take place on Sunday. There will be two passes through the 18.39km of the Krzekowo stage at 08.40hrs and 12.30hrs and a pair of runs through the 10.50km of Lubieszyn at 09.35hrs and 13.25hrs before the ceremonial finish in Szczecin from 14.30hrs.
FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies – standings after round 8:
1. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QAT) 210pts
2. Jakub Przygonski (POL) 138pts
3. Khalid Al-Qassimi (ARE) 105pts
4. Yasir Saeidan (SAU) 96pts
5. Aron Domzala (POL) 86pts
6. Mohammed Abu Issa (QAT) 84pts
7. Martin Prokop (CZE) 72pts
8. Miroslav Zapletal (CZE) 47pts
9. Leeroy Poulter (ZAF) 42pts
10. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) 37pts, etc